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Live Review: Wet, The Harpoons, Until The Ribbon Breaks

18 March 2015 | 4:23 pm | Simone Ubaldi

"Wet’s languid R&B tunes are an easy-listening pleasure, but their careers haven’t quite fired the way they should’ve."

Until The Ribbon Breaks invite the audience down to the stage “to make it feel like we’re playing a proper show” and, surprisingly, nearly everyone complies. The English three-piece has picked up the odd accolade from Pitchfork and Spin, but their particular brand of industrial synth-pop hasn’t caught on locally. This support slot for Wet isn’t helping their cause. The hip hop samples that pepper their tracks are clunky and pretentious, and singer Pete Lawrie Winfield has a voice like lead. There’s a lot of glitch, a bit of soul and a bit of pop, but the whole set is just a mess of noise.

The Harpoons play next and they’re sweet, slinking through a jazzy, future soul set. Can We Work This Out is energetic and Bec Rigby gets rights up over the notes; Keep You Around has that thin, homespun quality; Never Stop Loving You sounds like deconstructed Motown. Rigby is thrilled to be playing with Wet, she says, if only because they share a nautical band name. She dreams of a whole line-up of bands whose names have something to do with water.

The main act is a Brooklyn trio that have been a band about-to-break for over a year. On record, Wet’s languid R&B tunes are an easy-listening pleasure, but their careers haven’t quite fired the way they should’ve. In the country supporting London Grammar, barely half a room has turned out to watch Wet’s sideshow.

First impressions are good. Singer Kelly Zutrau walks on stage without ceremony, pottering as drummer Joe Valle and guitarist Marty Sulkow elicit slow droning sounds from their instruments. She’s beautiful, which is reassuring, and her voice when she sings has an unrehearsed honesty. Swinging from spectral soprano to an earthy middle range, Zutrau sounds like the girl next door. In fact at times she sounds like a country-pop act, drifting in a haze of future soul beats. Valle is slow and deliberate at the drum pads, favouring the slapping 808 minimalism of Phil Collins. Sulkow is similarly spare with his guitar, leaving huge humming hollows between each strum.

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The sound is lush and beautiful but, track after track, it tends to run together. It’s hard to pick a moment. Don’t Wanna Be Your Girl is a sweet exercise, deeply inspired by The XX. The small-but-enthusiastic crowd seems to know all the words to No Lie, and their singalong efforts lend the song a bit of muscle. But ultimately, like so much of the current R&B revival, it all just slips into a drone.